Open Space and Recreation Plan Meetings

Just a reminder that the city will be holding three meetings to discuss the draft Open Space and Recreation Plan.

The draft plan has been posted to the city’s Parks website, which also has other associated documents (notes from meetings and surveys, inventories of parks, etc.).

The three meetings will be held starting this week:

  • Thursday, June 27, 6:30 p.m., Mass Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Program Room, 414 Massasoit Road
  • Monday, July 1, 6:30 p.m., Levi Lincoln Chamber, City Hall, third floor, 455 Main St.
  • Thursday, July 11, 6:30 p.m., Parks & Recreation Administration Office, Green Hill Park, Meeting Room A, 50 Skyline Drive

You can find my notes about this process in the Open Space category of the blog.

City Surveys

The Worcester Public Library is doing their annual survey for National Library Week.

You should fill out this survey if you use library services – even if you don’t live in Worcester. 

And a reminder that the online Public Survey for Worcester’s Parks, Open Space and Recreation Plan — in English and Spanish — needs to be completed by Friday, April 19, at 5:00 PM.

This survey will help shape the City’s priorities for the next seven years and help make the City eligible for State and Federal funding to implement various improvements.

If you’d like to see what other folks have talked about at the meetings I’ve attended, you can look in the Open Space category of the blog.

Worcester Open Space and Recreation Plan Survey

The online Public Survey for Worcester’s Parks, Open Space and Recreation Plan is now up in English and Spanish.

This survey will help shape the City’s priorities for the next seven years and help make the City eligible for State and Federal funding to implement various improvements.

The deadline to complete this survey is Friday, April 12, 2013 at 5:00 PM.

If you’d like to see what other folks have talked about at the meetings I’ve attended, you can look in the Open Space category of the blog.

I highly encourage folks to fill out the survey to let the city know what’s important to you regarding open space, recreation, and parks.  Please share this with others — we’d like comments from everyone who uses parks or cares about open space, recreation, biking, walking, and related issues in the city!

Notes from last night’s D5 Open Space Meeting

Reminder: if you have comments about what should be included/mentioned in the Open Space plan, including any properties you think the city should look at acquiring, email, subject line: Open Space.

The Happy Valentine’s Day Open Space Meeting

The beginning is the same as the previous meetings – you can review the D3 meeting for more details.

When they started this process, they had 65 parcels for Con Comm – through a review they are up to 110 properties.

Community garden locations will be listed.

Discussion (based on question from attendee) about passive vs. active recreation; it seems that those who advocate passive recreation have showed up at the meetings more.

Comment/question about how many passive recreation people there are, and how to track them.

Suggestions: enlisting college students with clickers; quantifying geocache sites.

Another comment: older people tend to be more active in community things.  She recommends a demographic poll of age range.

Response: the survey will ask for an age range.

Another comment: has Worcester compared sports usage versus what the national parks & rec standards are?

Longer discussion of national formula vs. local character.

Colin: can we have an insert about the online survey in the annual street listing?

Question about making sure marginalized communities, residents of housing authorities, etc., the vulnerable, are included in the survey.  Potentially state/federal funding to support this.

Response: they will be meeting with the housing authority administration.

They will also be preparing an environmental justice map as part of the plan.

Gerry: curious about Cook Pond – land is labeled brown and “Other”; Patches is purple/Conservation Commission.  What’s up with the colors around the various bodies of water?

Response: it has to do with ownership.  Green is Parks; Purple is Con Com; Brown is private owner (like GWLT, Audubon, etc.)

Question: private and public cemeteries: are they allowed to be used for passive recreation?

Response: no answer from diocese (question was specifically about St John’s).  Still open space, question about public use.

Question about whether there will be a section on the history of the parks system.  Response – yes.

Question about seven year action plan?

Response: it’s a DCR/state requirement.

Further response: no requirement for a municipality to complete an open space master plan, but if you’re applying for grants, you need to do this, and it’s in your favor if what you’re applying for in a grant is in your master plan.

Gerry – an older master plan will not end up getting done before a newer one; the queue is not necessarily in order.

Response: correct.  It’s not a perfect science; they do try to map projects to year one, year two, etc.

Question: wonders if they could consider having these maps in hospital lobbies, etc. – to build bridges, inform community, etc.

Comment: improve Mill Street beach.  Cheap alternative to building a pool, annual maintenance would be less than a pool.  Also, environmental justice piece.

Further comment: people’s perception is that it’s dirty, would need outreach.

Comment: Hillside beach – keep open mind, make it happen after Mill St beach improvements.

Colin – Parson’s Cider Mill – conservation restriction on the land across the street from 1978.  On D2/D3, section of bikeway not on the map should be on the map.  As a policy matter, city came up with the shopping list of everything everyone mentioned – then there was an open space top 10 list from there, to share priorities with city and open space folks.

Comment: objects to parks policy of closing access to parking lots in Beaver Brook – denying public access to Knights of Columbus parcel.

Comment: ConCom property on Glendale Street – trying to get signs that say no dumping – police take notice.  If there are signs that might be a deterrent.

Gerry – Patches – no way to drain it.  Becoming filled in, shallower.  How do you get a system to drain it down?

Response from the audience: dam needs to be replaced/repaired/removed.

Longer discussion of the area – used to be a brook corridor, and it will go back to that without human intervention.


Open Space and Recreation Plan Hearings – Round 2

As you may recall, in November and December, the City DPW&P held the first round of open space and recreation plan hearings.

The City contractors and staff synthesize public comments from these meetings into a 7 year open space plan to guide projects, grants, groups and planning.

Here’s what the current open space plan looks like.  Here are the comments I heard at the D4 and D5 meetings last month.

There will be another round of hearings to get further comments and hone the plan.

Note that you are most welcome to attend any meeting, and you are encouraged to comment.  While there’s a meeting held in each district of the city, anyone can attend any meeting and comment about any part of the city.

Whether you visit, work, or live in Worcester — please come and give input on what you want to see for parks, recreation, open space, trails, trees, gardens, sidewalks, cemeteries… You name it!

We need you to come, bring a friend or two, and give your input!!

Here’s when the meetings will be held:

Tuesday, January 15, 4:15pm until 5:45pm, City Hall, 3rd Floor, Levi Lincoln Chamber, with the Commission on Disability

Thursday, January 17, 6:00 PM at Meeting Room A, Parks & Recreation Commission Administrative Office, 50 Skyline Drive, with sports leagues and organizations

Thursday, January 24, 6:30 PM at Clark University, Grace Conference Room, 1st Floor, 950 Main Street (District 4)

Monday, January 28, 6:30 PM at Beaver Brook Park Community House, 9 Mann Street (District 5)

Thursday, January 31, 6:30 PM at Meeting Room A, Parks & Recreation Commission Administrative Office, 50 Skyline Drive (District 2)

Monday, February 4, 6:30 PM at Bancroft School Multi-Purpose Room, 110 Shore Drive (District 1)

Monday, February 11, 6:30 PM at Mass Audubon Broad Meadow Brook Program Room, 414 Massasoit Road (District 3)

I will try to attend the meetings that happen on Mondays.  If someone else is attending another meeting, and wants to take notes to be posted on the blog, let me know!

Notes from D4 Open Space Plan Meeting tonight

14 attendees

Rob Antonelli of DPW&P and Gene Bollinger of Weston and Sampson presenting

6:41 – Bollinger – Division of Conservation Services from the state puts out the guidelines for the open space and recreation plan.  Some of the key elements are: executive summary of some major priorities; statement of purpose; community setting; inventory of lands of conservation and recreation interest (private as well as public and nonprofit parcels); community vision (description of process; statement of goals); analysis of needs (summary of resource protection needs; summary of community needs; management needs); final, overall goals and objectives; five year action plan [the state has recently changed it to seven]; public comments; references.

As part of basic components of plan: public outreach to city departments; boards, commissions, committees; nonprofits; other land stewards; sports leagues; college community; “Friends Of …”; general public.

They will be going to each park, looking at them in a lot of ways (including ADA compliance), as well as other parcels.

The five-year plan for 2005 recommended new park master plans for certain parks (Rockwood, Cookson, Crompton, etc.); new targeted park improvements; new conservation land master planning; new targeted open space acquisitions.

When we talk about Worcester’s park and open space system, we are talking about city-wide and regional parks; neighborhood parks and playgrounds; active and passive and water-based; state parks; and athletic facilities, schools, and colleges.  As well as Other city properties/other jurisdictions; historic parks; conservation properties; linear parks and trail systems; and city sidewalk systems.

Seven properties that fall under Parks Division in D4: Cookson Field (Kendig Street), which has a master plan and they work with the neighborhood group to make improvements; Crompton Park (Canton Street), which also has a master plan; Elm Park (Newton Square and Highland Street), in the middle of $1.2 million in work on the park and have a grant for another $400k (waiting for final approval); Harry Sherry Field/South Worcester (Cambridge Street); Oread Castle Park (Castle Street), neighborhood has done a lot of work and there is money available for a master plan; University Park (Main Street), has a master plan and will begin $1.1 million in improvements on the park; Winslow and Pleasant, pocket park, passive seating area, walkways, and community garden area.

Basic Goals – improve accessibility; provide multi-generational opportunities; provide connectivity (physical assets and programs); and create economic development; protect/enhance historical assets; protect/enhance cultural assets; protect/enhance environmental assets and habitat; and maintain a variety of passive and active uses and programs.

(I think I covered some of this in the previous liveblog – this is the part of the meeting where they go over the goals and process)

There will be an online survey.  I know that’s what many of you are looking forward to.

Parks Commission will have at least one citywide meeting, as will the City Council.

Some of the questions they ask in public comments session:

What Parks and Open Spaces do you use?  What do you like?  What don’t you like?  How are the conditions?  Would you like new or refurbished facilities?  Do you make use of Recreation Programs?  How do you get to your Park or Open Space destination (by car, bicycle, foot, public transportation)?  Do you know of properties that might be purchased to provide new Park, Open Space and Recreation value?  What are the important Park and Open Space priorities?  Are there new initiatives to pursue?

Antonelli, in response to a question — As they have documents available to distribute, they will make them available online.

7:10 – recommendation to keep Channel 3 in mind.

Question about survey and how it will get out – they will try to disseminate as much as possible through neighborhood groups, etc. – they would like to get responses online as much as possible.

Question about parks with master plans – the document is complete, the implementation is not complete.  The master plans that are complete have already been vetted in public meetings, and the finished plans guide the work that is done at those facilities.

Question about Elm Park’s master plan – guidelines are to develop it in its current condition so that it is more usable and easier to maintain.  Take care of drainage issues, walkways, playground.  There is also a Mayor’s Taskforce.  Maintenance, programming, fiscal components.

Question from someone who works for the REC – in 2005 plan, there was mention of community gardens, etc.  Also, mobile farmers market at parks.

Response – they had discussed this a little at the D2 meeting as well.

Colin Novick – statewide – Chapter 61A – this does not apply to the city.  It would be interesting if the city could look into tax abatement program for people who use their land for community gardens.

Someone else mentions small orchards.

Question about visiting the parks – will the community be able to attend those site visits?

Antonelli’s response – the community will have a chance to respond to the assessments.

Bollinger – they would appreciate people who know the sites well to review the assessment after it’s initially written.

Comment about small vacant lots to be turned into community areas.

Antonelli would like them to provide a list of those areas as possibilities for acquisition.

Question – have they done that in the past?

Antonelli – in the previous process, if someone saw a property they thought was interesting, they identified it and put it on a list of possible properties to acquire.

Martha Assefa, question – WBDC and Tim working on a proposal about the vacant properties, and there was a proposal to do something with foreclosed land for community gardens and nothing is public about this yet.

7:24 – REC – when Joe O’Brien was mayor, they proposed that land be sold to a land trust be sold for community gardens and they did it with two properties that are now community gardens.

Dante Comparetto, comment – would like to see more greenways in Worcester.  Opportunities to do that in Main South and even on Pleasant Street.  For the purpose of economic development and more walkable neighborhoods.  Have trees lining the sidewalks.

Antonelli – they will look to include sidewalks and trees in the plan.  They are a connection that gets you from home to facility, from facility to facility; also, large endeavor to plant trees (right tree, right place) with Worcester Tree Initiative.  $3 million for new plantings.

Peggy – question – could we have the forestry plan as part of this?

Antonelli – will not go into that piece, but will mention that as part of plan.  We have a forestry policy, not a plan.

Peggy – could suggest we have a plan.

Also, discussion of complete streets approach.

Question about Elm Park and tree replanting – Antonelli responds that tree planting is not in initial phase.  This phase is walkway upgrades (partial), lighting, playground improvements, edgework on the meres.  As they do further development, they will begin including additional tree plantings where appropriate.

Colin – greenways – for D4 – if you followed waterways, could do from Beaver to Cambridge, following along Beaver Brook/Kettle Brook.  Land behind WHA and Super Chinese Buffet, behind Rotmans, could partner with St John’s Cemetery.  In terms of parcels, around Cookson Field, a number of vacant lots adjacent that could be good for expansion.

7:33 – Casey – as we talk about open space, D4 is lacking in open space (including backyards), need to preserve open space we do have.

Casey – question about basic goals came across as goals.

Bollinger – priorities are actual projects or initiatives that were identified.  We will be identifying a laundry list of needs, and then will find out how community prioritizes those needs.  For instance, no soccer field in this district.

Colin – the last time they did an open space plan for D4, Pleasant and Winslow was identified as a major priority, and that was accomplished.  Identify a good, clear goal.

Gerry Powers – when you’re talking about large water space and open space, within quarter mile in Coes. Most people in D4 would get more benefit from Coes than D5.

Colin – also worth noting that your district councilor can advocate for things in your district.

Antonelli – also connect parcels together.  When they were in D3, people can walk from their side of Lake Park past 290 (D2).

7:40 – Martha – a lot of kids play at basketball court on Pleasant but would like more space.

Another question – in the master plans for the parks they have, what types of security do they have in place (vandalism, etc.)?

Antonelli – Elm and University: identified that they wanted to install security cameras.  Some parks have wooden barriers to limit vehicular access.  At Elm, security cameras on light poles at a later phase.  [Siemens is the consultant on security cameras.]

Q: Would Elm Park be well-lit?

Antonelli: at the end of this, Elm Park would have 70 fixtures.  Also be able to dim those if able to.

Karen – connections among parks, and connections through parks.  Off road ways to get to places of other value.

For example, Beaver Brook – walk to Big Y.

Peggy – Park Ave keeps us disconnected.  Some way in the plan to get over these barriers?

Karen – Worcester Regional Mobility Study had plans for Webster Square.

Colin recommends buying the Friendly’s, turning it into a green space, and making a signalized crossing area there.

Peggy – need for a dog park.  Do we set up another task force to assess needs for dog park?

Colin – D4 has more people who are traveling by bikes.  Few facilities for bike lanes.  Chandler St and Main St – people hopping off sidewalk and side shoulder.  It would be great to figure out how to do bike traffic in a safe way.

Casey – would also like to see places to lock up bikes.

Also mentions railroad tracks as boundary.

She would like to come up with a list of basic things that every park in the city should have.  She mentions lights as an example

Response from Antonelli – there are some people who don’t like lights.  All of our sites are pretty site-specific (because of history, function, topography, etc.).

Colin – portion of D4 that used to be wetland and still has flooding issues.  Could Blackstone Canal take some of Wyman-Gordon (or other abandoned sites) as retention basin?

Joe – there was another map previously that showed all open space – the map we’re looking at now is just Parks land, not even conservation.

Antonelli – he’s worked on this two times previously.  This time, they could not do enough work to have consistent document including all land.  They do not have Conservation Commission lands on that yet.  They have met with GIS people and will gather that information now.  They will also meet with Colin for GWLT component.  So at future meetings, they should have those on the maps.

Joe – possible acquisitions – can we provide feedback through this forum for possible conservation commission acquisitions work as well?

Antonelli – yes.  They would want to know that for the possible targeted acquisition.

Question – is there an open space regulation – when developers put in houses, are there regulations about how much open space there should be?

Antonelli – not really.  Zoning is probably more stringent on parking lots than house building.  They can put something in the document about changes to zoning bylaws.  But if you go down that road, because the rules would need to be well-defined.

Colin – if you incentivized it in some way, that would be the better way to drive it.

Gerry – bike riding – TIP money from Clark (sorry, not understanding this) – shouldn’t we focus on that (connectivity)?

Casey – there is a bike path constructed soon that will reconnect Hammond to Kilby Street (on Tainter St).  Have heard from neighbors that need to further connect to University Park.

Peggy – Barbara Haller sent some questions.

Comparison of open space by district – this can be done.

Comparison of recreational space by district – ditto.

Number, type, and residency – organized teams – will need this question clarified.

Number of dollars spent by district, unfunded projects in the pipeline.

Martha – intersection between May and Park Avenue – a lot of bikers killed and hurt in that area.

Colin –highlight segment 7 of Blackstone Bikeway from Crompton to City Hall.  Keep this in mind as a spine that will someday come to the district and will want to link to that.

Casey – questions about inventory of Castle Park for master planning.

Gerry – Wednesday night hearing on McKeon Road sidewalk at Hogan Campus Center.

Casey – does every park have its own budget?

No – Colin notes that the citizens have to advocate for this at budget time.

Karen – state’s interest in equitable access.  Needs to be more of a demonstration of that in the plan.

Karen – looking at national examples of public/private partnerships.  Like Austin TX.

Casey – “closing” of parks – is there a conversation about the closing of parks.

Antonelli – there has been no discussion of this.

Gerry Powers – about the security issues: cameras can work in darkness.  The issue of maintenance in the parks: because the leagues maintain their own fields, it weighs the benefits of the city to have more of those facility.  The “open space” ones don’t get taken care of and are probably more expensive for the city.

Antonelli – not necessarily.  Majority of little leagues maintain, some of the Babe Ruth fields do as well.  Rectangular sports – not really.  Vikings maintain the football field.

Notes from D5 Open Space Plan Meeting tonight

There were roughly 10 citizens attending; my notes are below.  They are not complete and may not always have a name attached.  Note also that even though the meeting took place in D5, comments were welcome about any open space in the city.

District 5 Open Space and Recreation Plan Update

With Gene Bolllinger of Weston and Sampson, and Cesar Valiente, Project Manager for DPW&P

Back in all five districts in January with what they have learned.

Updated plan on file with Commonwealth in May/June 2013.

What are city’s parks and open space priorities for next seven years.

Will be meeting in public forums – a couple of citywide meetings; with parks commission; elder affairs commission; conservation commission; nonprofits like MassAudubon and GWLT; all athletic facilities permit holders; college community; “Friends of”; and general public.

Inventory of Lands of Conservation and Recreation Interest – will visit all city parks and fields, as well as other places of interest

Citywide survey on the city’s website – due sometime in January.

List of city assets in D5 – Apricot St. Playground, Bailey-Prouty Playground/Field, Beaver Brook Park, Bennett Field, Boynton Park, Cascades Park, Coes Pond Beach/Coes Knife/Columbus Park, Farber Field, Hadwen Park, Knights of Columbus, Logan Field, Rockwood Field, Ty Cobb Field

Comments period

Folks from Worcester Handball Association – here about 13 years.  They were wondering about Crompton Park master plan.  Available on the city website.  It was mentioned where the tennis court is.  They will check the master plan and see if that is called for and get back to them.

The parks they frequently use – Green Hill, Castle, and one in South Worcester.  The conditions in some of them are not favorable.  They had a donation of $10k from the Rotary (I think) about five years ago which helped.  They would like to see enhancements and improvements.

Green Hill is not as good as they would want it to be – skaters use it because there is not a fence all around and it damages the surface.

Run a tournament at Sharry Field (sp?) every year.  This year were not able to do the one at Camp Street.

They’d like more handball courts and better shape for the existing ones.

Conditions at Castle Park are horrible because there is no parking.

PM says there is a master plan slated for Castle Park after July 1.

Larry – as far as Crompton Park, playground is done.  There is a problem because it is subject to flooding and sewage overflows.   Doesn’t make sense to put a lot of money because it will just flood out.

Green Hill – upgrading and enlargement of animal farm will be very extensive.  Once the “Green Monster” (old park headquarters) is demolished – lot of space at the top of the hill.  The city has talked about moving the greenhouse/gardening up there, but there are some people who are not happy with that proposal.  City now discussing putting up extensive security cameras and gating to keep park closed.  City has a couple of roving rangers on bicycles to check parks mostly during nighttime.

Green Hill, continued – thanks mainly to GWLT – 12+ acres were added to the park last year, which added open space and the Coal Mine and Coal Mine Brook.  Also been working with Public Works – Bob Moylan has proposed linear park from Rt 9 bridge to Lake Ave North to Lincoln St to connect with Green Hill Park.   Also talking about renovating the old well and putting in windows to see what old water works used to look like.

Wants to see if the parks master plans could be done in a better way – some individual parks have master plans, but doesn’t know an overall master plan for all parks.

Bollinger replies that the Open Space plan is something like an overall parks master plan.

Larry, continued – mentions the tree initiative action.

Nicole mentions God’s Acre.

Colin leads from there to talk about Tetasset Ridge Trail.

South of God’s Acre – street crossings would make that a more useful/safe trail system.

Woman talks about access to Wheels to Water – and crossing Park Avenue in general.

Colin – from an environmental justice perspective, Park Ave serves as a wall.

Karen – Goddard Memorial Drive – already efforts from members of public for access; access to get to Newton Hill to cross Pleasant Street; safe crossings.  Newton Square rotary awkwardness.

No safe way to cross at where Elm Park ends – hopefully this can be done when Fire Alarm building is done.

Mention of Hadwen Arboretum.

Colin – other institutional lands (besides Hadwen) not protected – Worcester Academy owns playing fields and wooded areas near Kettle Brook – esp. wooded lands next to brook.

Long discussion of needing a task force for a dog park.

I mentioned cemeteries, and the need for a meeting between all the cemeteries in the city + Friends of Hope Cemetery.  Also – community gardens.

Colin – open space – Moreland and Brigham Road (Clarkson property), Cascades Triangle

Karen – can farmers’ markets be incorporated into an open space plan – in conjunction with community gardens?

Another woman mentions skate parks.  Bollinger mentions Green Hill Park.  Part of master plan of Logan Field.

Colin – Historic resources – WPA era bridge on Cataract St – historic preservation grants – potential resource.

Colin – open space plan – 495 collaborative – greenway along Tatnuck Brook because of green spaces already there.

Mention of Perkins Farm – minimally managed, used to be mostly volunteer, but key volunteer has since passed away.  Needs more maintenance on the signs.

Sherer Trail land that could connect to Coes Pond.

Open Space and Recreation Plan Hearings

via Worcester on Facebook:

The first Worcester Open Space Planning Public Hearing has been scheduled for District 3 on 11/26 at 6:30 p.m. at Worcester Academy’s Megaron Hall, 81 Providence St.
Open Space Plans allow a municipality to maintain and enhance all of the benefits that combined make up the character of the community and protect the “green infrastructure” of water supply, land, working farms, parks, recreation areas, trails and greenways. We hope to see you there!

I’ve tried to piece together when these meetings will occur via a search in the city calendar:

Monday, November 26, 6:30 PM at Megaron Hall, Worcester Academy, 81 Providence Street

Thursday, November 29, 6:30 PM at Room 109 A & B, Harrington Learning Center, Quinsigamond Community College, 670 West Boylston Street

Thursday, December 6, 6:30 PM at Meeting Room A, Parks & Recreation Commission Administrative Office, 50 Skyline Drive

Monday, December 10, 6:30 PM at Beaver Brook Park Community House, 9 Mann Street

Monday, December 17, 6:30 PM at Clark University, Grace Conference Room, 1st Floor, 950 Main Street

Here’s what the current open space plan looks like.